Unions Can’t Turn Water into Wine. Or Raises.

Posted by Abby Streu on Monday, July 31st, 2017 at 9:45 am - Permalink

By Abby Streu

What happens when union negotiators demand money that isn’t there?  Take, for example, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 in Springfield, IL.

On July 24, 2017, the union members jeered and sneered at board members of the Springfield Housing Authority (SHA). AFSCME Council 31 leadership is demanding that the SHA give their members a four percent raise. They claim that their members’ wages do not match the wages of similar housing authorities in other Illinois towns. AFSCME negotiators are also asking for an increase in healthcare coverage for the members.

During an interview with the State Journal-RegisterSHA deputy director Melissa Huffstedtler stated, “(a 2 percent increase) is what the housing authority feels it can afford in a cost-of-living increase,” due to a recent 23 percent cut of federal funding. Springfield lost approximately $4 million from their public housing budget. Peoria, IL, the closest city in size to Springfield lost around $4 million as well. Cuts in Illinois amounted to $400.5 million. 

The Springfield Housing Authority has given raises to the 27 union members every year from the past five years, amounting to a total of 17 percent between the 2012 and 2017 fiscal years. The current wage for a SHA public safety officer is around $20 per hour. In comparison, the majority of reported salaries for the Peoria Housing Authority were under $20 per hour (aside from director and supervisor positions).

AFSCME is ignoring the reality of the situation. The SHA is working with $4 million dollars less than usual. Cuts need to be made somewhere, and nobody is suggesting cutting the salaries or jobs of workers, meaning that the SHA is cutting funding from public housing itself. If the union members get the additional raise they’re demanding, then even more people in the area lose out on public housing.

Purely due to federal budget cuts, 256,900 families lost their housing vouchers across the nation. More would lose vouchers if unions were to harass housing authorities into giving out raises.

And the union is still claiming that this fight is for “fairness.”